Human Chain Beach Heroes Helped Save A Family; Maybe They Can Help Save A Nation

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The several dozen beach-goers who saved a family of nine from a rip current on the panhandle of Florida over the weekend did the sort of good deed that most people only imagine.

But they also provided us with an image for how we can pull our country out of some of its current troubles.

If you haven’t seen the story, a family of three generations was visiting the beach Saturday afternoon at Panama City, a popular northwest Florida summer hangout. At one point the mother looked out at the water and saw two boys out farther than she thought they would be. They had gotten caught in a rip current, a silent killer that swiftly brings objects near the surface far away from shore.

Onlookers told the family members not to go out in it, but they couldn’t stay there and watch the boys drown. So they all charged in — and they all got caught in the rip current, ending up about 100 yards from shore in about 15 feet of water.

They were probably all goners at this point, except for a woman who happened to be unexpectedly visiting the beach who had picked up a discarded boogie board for her godchildren. She saw what was going on, and she zipped out to where the people were, using the flotation device.

You can’t save nine people drowning far from shore with a little boogie board. But her husband and other men on the beach organized a human chain. People who couldn’t swim stayed in the shallows. People who could swim went farther out into the water. Eventually the chain — of 80 people — extended to a point not far from where the drowning people were. The woman with the boogie board helped each of the nine drowning family members get to the end of the human chain, where each victim was passed from person to person until reaching the shore.

All nine were saved.

This is a great story that should make us all feel a little better about our fellow human beings. But it’s also useful for the lessons it offers for our nation. We have serious political problems in this country. But our deepest problems are not political. They are problems of approach, and they are problems of the heart. Here are some of the things we can learn from the human-chain heroes:


1.    Don’t be afraid to get involved

The people on the beach could have just watched, or they could have just walked away. In the beginning, they were confused about what to do. (Naturally.) But they didn’t resolve to do nothing. Doing something opens you up to criticism and even attack. That doesn’t mean that passivity is the better course. This incident was life-saving for the family — and life-changing for everyone involved.


2.    Don’t wait for the experts

The people on the beach could have decided this family drowning was somebody else’s problem — firefighters’, police’s, emergency medical technicians’, the Coast Guard’s. But the experts can’t be everywhere. If the onlookers had waited, there’s a good chance the whole family would have died.


3.    A little leadership goes a long way

The woman with the boogie board didn’t have all the answers. But she seized the initiative and showed everyone on the beach that something could be done. Then some of the men on the beach were inspired to lead others to form the human chain. One or two people put a whole lot more people in motion by coming up with a good idea, acting on it quickly, and encouraging others to join them.


4.    When you get good leadership, follow it

Leaders can do little without followers. Everyone who got into the human chain participated in the rescue. In the end it doesn’t matter whose idea it was or who gave the orders. It matters what got done.


5.    Even if what you can offer is little, it might be just what’s needed

Some of the people in the human chain couldn’t swim, and so they couldn’t get anywhere near the victims. The probably thought in the beginning they couldn’t possibly help. But even the rescuers who stayed close to shore played a role that was not only useful, but vital.


6.    Tough situations rarely end without someone getting hurt

The grandmother of the family had a heart attack in the water, and she almost died in the ambulance. (But she didn’t.) One of the boys ended up with a broken hand. (Speculation, but maybe it was from a rescuer squeezing hard so as not to lose him.) These sorts of things are unfortunate and hard to avoid. You have to be prepared for them. They don’t diminish the accomplishment, though.


7.    Charity is always worth it

The family members who went out to try to save their loved ones didn’t do the wrong thing, even though they got themselves in trouble. The woman with the boogie board obviously wasn’t wrong, and she wouldn’t have been wrong even if she had been unable to save anyone. And even if the human chain hadn’t worked, it was still worth trying. Everyone involved did the right thing. The right thing is always the right thing to do.

And look what happened.


Matt McDonald is Publisher and Editor-In-Chief of New Boston Post. If you found this article helpful, please share it.